Job Accommodations for Adults with ADHD

Adult ADHD symptoms can get in the way of doing a good job at work. Here are ideas adults with ADHD can use to solve workplace problems.


Adult ADHD symptoms can get in the way of doing a good job at work. Here are ideas adults with ADHD can use to solve workplace problems.As people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), we find ways to work that take advantage of our particular way of seeing, hearing, and sensing the environment around us. We do this naturally, and often our own way of doing it is better than anything we can read on a web site or in a textbook.

Unfortunately, we can't think of everything ourselves. The purpose of this article is to provide you with ideas that have been used successfully by many people with ADD.

The term "accommodation" refers to changes in the way the job is usually done by people who do not have disabilities or, more often, the way the job was designed to be done by the managers who set up the job. Sometimes an accommodation will be a change in the equipment you use, the way people communicate with you, or a change in the work environment. If you work as an independent business person, you will make these changes yourself. Otherwise, you will have to ask other people to cooperate with you. These changes reduce the impact of your disability on your ability to produce high quality products or services.

Ideas adults with ADHD can use to solve your workplace problems

Following are a list of challenges and responses. The "challenges" listed are problems reported by many people who have ADD. The "responses" are accommodations that have worked and are working. You can set some of them up yourself, and others will require the cooperation of others. They are adapted from my book, Learning A Living: A Guide to Planning Your Career and Finding a Job for People with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Dyslexia. (Woodbine House; 2000))


You just can't seem to get organized. Getting ready for work in the morning is impossible—something is always lost and you are sometimes late. The day ends and you feel like you haven't gotten anything done.


  • *Take time management, study skills, and organization classes. Use only the ideas that will work for you.
  • Ask a friend, a coach, or even a trusted relative to help you plan your day. Then follow your plan. In other words, plan your work, then work your plan.
  • Get ready the night before; leave everything you will need for the next day by the door.
  • 4Use a daily planner and schedule. Use color codes, stickers, or anything else that makes it fun to give yourself feedback as you finish each task. You might put a white sticker over each completed task, for example.
  • Ask a friend, a coach, or even a trusted relative to help you break down long jobs into shorter tasks.
  • Use personal information management software, which can keep your schedule, organize your phone calls, and handle other memory-based tasks.


You have difficulty remembering and sticking to deadlines.


  • Use an alarm clock or a watch with a buzzer to remind you to be on time.
  • For shorter deadlines, use a timer. So you might set it for forty minutes so it will let you know it's time to take the ceramics out of the oven or join an online live discussion group.
  • Use a daily calendar and alarm feature on your work computer. Reminders, such as a loud ring or a flashing screen, can be programmed into your computer.
  • Use a gadget such as a voice organizer or signal watch to notify you of specific times.
  • Personal data management software can include calendars, daily schedules, "to do" lists, address books, and memos. There are many on the market and they are very helpful to people who have trouble organizing their time.
  • Use a tickler file (accordion file). You might get one with 31 sections—one for each day of the month, or one with 12 sections—one for each month. You can put follow-up notices in the file. Review the file each day.
  • Find someone to remind you of important deadlines. They can do it in person, by telephone, or even through instant messaging. You might carry a beeper and ask them to page you.
  • Ask your manager to remind you of important deadlines or to review priorities on a regular basis (such as daily or weekly).
  • If you work in a newsroom or a restaurant kitchen or any situation with many people, confusion, and quick turnarounds, find a buddy who can signal you immediately before critical deadlines. This can be a word, a touch, or a wave of their hand. This is usually difficult for the buddy, but you can frequently offer a return favor such as doing a job for him that he doesn't like doing.


You are easily distracted and the work is done in a noisy, visually complicated environment such as an open space office or a crowded, busy manufacturing plant.


  • Ask for a private place to work.
  • Arrange to work at home on occasion.
  • Negotiate for the quietest and least distracting location. This is usually far away from the door, near a wall, or at an end of a row of work stations.
  • Arrange to use libraries, file rooms, private offices, storerooms, and other enclosed spaces when they are not in use.
  • Use a machine that creates white noise—background noise that drowns out other distracting sounds.
  • Use headphones that play white noise or soothing music. Tell your fellow workers and managers how to get your attention.
  • Put partitions around the space where you do your work.
  • Find a quiet area where you can take frequent, quick breaks. You may find exercises such as deep breathing and visualization to be helpful.


You have difficulty with handling interruptions and multiple tasks.


  • Put up a "Do not disturb" sign.
  • Set up hours when you are available for discussion.
  • Do one task at a time. Do not start a new one until the current one is complete.
  • Initiate telephone calls. Avoid having people call back. Leave as few messages as possible. Hang up on voice mail if you know the person often answers their own phone. If you need to continue a conversation, tell the person you will get back to them.
  • Ask your supervisor to help you set priorities and manage your workload.
  • When someone interrupts you, take a deep breath, pause, put your work down, and slowly turn to the person. Sometimes, if you make the person wait while you transition, the person will hesitate to interrupt you again.
  • When interrupted, write down what you were doing so that you remember it when you complete the interaction.
  • Another possibility: Ask them to come back later or tell them you will get back to them when you are ready. You would only do this if you had a plan to remember your commitment.
  • Still another possibility: Learn to ignore interruptions (but not from a boss or supervisor.)
  • Figure out when most people are gone and work then. Common times to try include early mornings, late nights, weekends, holidays, and lunch hours.


You have difficulty keeping yourself in one place for long periods of time, such as when sitting at your desk, behind a counter, or stationed near your machine.


  • Arrange your work schedule so there are many appropriate opportunities to move around, such as duplicating papers, getting materials from the supply room, running errands for your boss, or bringing letters to the mailroom.
  • Arrange your work space so you need to get up frequently to reach items, such as reference books or the phone.
  • When the phone rings, stand up and answer it.
  • Obtain an office location where it is less obvious that you often take breaks.
  • Exercise as vigorously as possible during your breaks and lunch hour. For example, you might find an empty room and run in place.


You have difficulty learning a lot of information quickly in intensive training classes and conferences.


  • Call ahead to obtain the written materials. Study them. Some training classes insist that the material not be given out until the student is in the class, or worse, at the end of the class. In that case, you might need to look for a former student to lend you his materials or else formally request an accommodation.
  • Before the training, ask former students to describe highlights of what they learned.
  • Sit in the front desk and/or center so you can easily follow what is said.
  • Hold a review meeting of the students a few days after the conference, or sit with a fellow student and go over your notes together.


You have trouble remembering details such as names, numbers, and specific facts, particularly the first time the information is presented. This is usually due to short-term memory problems.


  • Use mnemonic devices and acronyms. For example, ROY G BIV stands for the initials of the colors of the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.
  • Organize details on paper so that they can be quickly looked up through diagrams, flow charts, or cheat sheets.
  • Practice using the new information in many ways. Associate one idea to another.
  • Put up a chart that displays what you need to know. This sometimes helps your co-workers. If you don't have your own space, ask your supervisor and/or teammates if you can use the wall.
  • Carry a miniature tape recorder or voice organizer. Ask people to speak into it.
  • Have your supervisor check with you to be sure that you grasp and remember important details. It can help to repeat back while he or she listens.
  • Obtain a participants list before a conference or meeting so you can get a head start in studying the names of people who will be there. Work hard at learning names. For example, at the end of the day, you might want to write down the names of the people you met and visualize how they look. When you start a job, greet everyone by name the first few days. I If you are wrong, you will be forgiven at first.
  • If there is different information that you need to remember every day, such as what the soups of the day are or who is in the office that day, jot it down on an index card to refer to as needed.

>What if my problem has not been covered yet?

This list covers some of the major challenges that come up with ADHD, but naturally it did not cover everything. If you have other challenges, or if you have tried the responses in these articles and they did not work, try these steps:

  1. Call the Job Accommodation Network at 1-800-526-7234. The counselors have access to a database of more than 200,000 accommodations. Be organized when you call them. Have a clear question and be ready to describe your "functional limitations" (how your disability affects you).
  2. If you think your accommodation needs might involve technology, contact RESNA's Technical Assistance Project at 1700 North Moore Street, Suite 1540, Arlington, VA 22209-1903. They will give you the name of your state Tech Act project, which may help you find a technological solution.
  3. Brainstorm ideas. Write down a lot of thoughts without judging or evaluating. Then pick out the best possible idea.
  4. Bring up the issue at a support group for people with ADD. Talk to your coach, counselor, or a trusted relative.
  5. Don't forget the possibility of not doing the particular job that is causing you difficulty. You may be able to find an employer who is more flexible.


The ideas in this article may help you to do a better job and overcome the difficulties caused by your Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Remember, your ADD gives you some advantages: creativity, energy, and the ability to think of new ways to get things done. Don't be surprised if your accommodation leads to productivity improvements for the entire office when they start to work like you do.

About the author:

Dale Susan Brown was on the professional advisory board of ADDA and on the editorial advisory board of ADDvance Magazine . She is the author of five published books, including Learning A Living: A Career Guide for People with Learning Disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Dyslexia (Woodbine House, 2000) and I Know I Can Climb the Mountain (Mountain Books, 1995) . She gives speeches, workshops, and poetry readings, and won the Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award in 1994.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 17). Job Accommodations for Adults with ADHD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 16 from

Last Updated: February 14, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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